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Journey of Justice: The Civil Rights Act at 60

As our country heads into a pivotal 2024 election, join us for a conversation that counts as we unpack the creation and the legacy of one of the most significant legislative achievements in American history, the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The 60-year-old Civil Right Act – bold, imperfect at creation, and controversial – demanded a fundamental fairness in American life that today remains an unfinished task.

In June 1963, President John Kennedy urged Congress to enact a comprehensive civil rights bill, driven by widespread resistance to desegregation and the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Following Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson championed the bill, ultimately securing its passage the following year, despite intense resistance that included a 54-day filibuster by opponents.

At the bill’s signing on July 2, 1964, President Johnson was joined by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights crusaders. The Civil Rights Act barred unequal voter registration requirements, banned discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin” in places of public accommodation, in public education and in federally-assisted programs, banned discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” in hiring, and expanded the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The passage of the Civil Rights Act was a watershed moment in American history. It effectively ended the era of notorious “Jim Crow” laws, previously upheld by the Supreme Court, which permitted racial segregation under the pretext of “separate but equal.” Since 1964, Congress has expanded the Civil Rights Act to strengthen the protection of essential civil liberties.

With an expert panel, we pay respects to the vision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and take stock of the state of – and threats to – civil liberties in today’s America.
Featuring Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Associate Professor, Department of History, The Ohio State University; Janet E. Jackson, Former President & CEO, The United Way of Central Ohio, Former City Attorney for the City of Columbus, Former Franklin County Municipal Court Judge; Jen Miller, Executive Director, The League of Women Voters of Ohio; with panel moderator W. Kay Wilson, Associate Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Mahogany Columbus.